Risk of hepatitis C virus transmission through drug preparation equipment: a systematic and methodological review


Prithwish De, MHSc, PhD, Montreal Public Health Department, Division of Infectious Diseases, 1301 Sherbrooke Street East, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2L 1M3. E-mail: prithwish.de@mail.mcgill.ca


Summary.  The use of blood-contaminated drug preparation equipment is believed to be associated with the transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) among injection drug users (IDUs), but the extent of HCV infection risk is unclear. The objective of this review was to appraise the evidence regarding HCV incidence associated with the use of drug preparation equipment such as drug mixing containers, filters and water. In June 2007, cohort and case–control studies examining the association of HCV incidence with the sharing of drug preparation equipment were identified by searching electronic reference databases as well as the reference lists of published papers. Ten studies (seven cohort and three nested case–control) met the inclusion criteria for the review. The relative risk of HCV infection associated with drug preparation equipment were mainly between 2.0 and 5.9; however, the precision of the estimates from individual studies were marked by wide confidence intervals. Few studies exist to allow an adequate assessment of the individual contributions of containers, filters and water to HCV incidence. The major methodological limitations of reviewed studies were short follow-up times, inadequate control of confounders and lack of exclusion of periods when IDUs were not at risk for HCV infection through drug injection. Current evidence implicating the association of drug preparation equipment with HCV incidence is limited by several methodological concerns.